Regardless of how consistent our efforts may be, it’s natural to experience different levels of training throughout the year. We may spend months in peak condition – conquering speed workouts, long runs and interval training – while other months are spent maintaining and building a running base.
Whether you’re starting to run for the very first time or experiencing a slow training season with no goals or races, building a running base is a key component in preventing injuries and setting our bodies up for success.
There will always be seasons when weather, motivation, health, fitness or busy schedules prevent us from training at our peak. These seasons are certainly not ideal for working towards lofty goals, but rather, they’re better spent maintaining or building a running base.
Building a running base is essential for any runner coming back from a break or starting from scratch. Jumping in to high mileage and tough workouts is not only a surefire way to injure yourself or burn out, but it is also a way to quickly decrease your confidence.
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After weeks, months, or years spent not running, taking the time to build a running base is essential for long term success.
Base training is the foundation for any training plan or long term goal – whether that goal be a mile, 5k, marathon, or anything in between.
When building a running base, the key is to spend time running shorter distances at an easy pace before increasing mileage or speed. During base training, you’ll slowly increase mileage as you feel more comfortable and your fitness improves.
Another key to base training is understanding that each runner is different. Depending on your fitness level, length of time away from the sport, and goals for the future, you may need to dedicate two weeks to building a running base or you may need two years.
Whatever the case, listening to your body and responding accordingly is the golden strategy for success.
No matter what season you are in, aerobic base building is a foundational part of any training plan that all runners need. Here are some of the best ways to build a really solid running base.
How to Build a Solid Running Base
Set a mileage limit during base training.
Decide what frequency and distance you want to stick to and don’t go above it – no matter how great you may feel. The first few weeks of base training may feel a bit slow as you complete short, easy runs, but remember that these runs serve as the building blocks of your foundation.
Base building training is not the time to push your limits, it’s the time to get really comfortable with mileage and the physical act of running after time away.
While it may be tempting to increase your mileage when you’re feeling really strong, remember that doing too much too soon (while tempting) is what causes most runners to become injured or burnt out in the future.
Focus on feel rather than speed or distance.
Avoid obsessing over your pace during these base training runs and really tune in to how your body is feeling. Spend the miles listening to your body and never push yourself past feels what is comfortable.
Get out there and run a distance that feels good, at a pace that is enjoyable. Make a point to appreciate the ease and comfort of base training before things start to ramp up.
Prioritize shorter, frequent runs for maximum base building efficiency.
Running 12 miles once a week is a great accomplishment, but won’t help you build a strong aerobic base. A great running base comes from frequent miles that don’t stretch your limits.
Spread your mileage out into multiple short, easy runs. Maintaining consistency by running every other day or a certain number of times each week helps your body adjust both physically and mentally to training.
Don’t neglect your recovery.
A great running base also means your body remains strong, injury free, healthy and fresh. In order to do so, it’s important to begin incorporating regular rest days and recovery measures during base training – even before mileage increases.
Stretching, foam rolling and strength training all play into maintaining a healthy running base. Begin establishing a recovery schedule now that you will be able to continue when training ramps up in the future.
Incorporate more cross training when mileage is low.
Building a great running base isn’t just about the act of running, it’s about increasing your physical fitness and aerobic base. While mileage is low, dedicate more time to cross training activities to help increase your cardiovascular fitness.
Taking the time to cross train along with running will build your aerobic base much quicker than just running alone. In addition, your body will benefit greatly from strength when it’s time to crank up your mileage or speed work.
Rather than getting down on yourself because of low mileage or slower speeds, focus on base training as a time to get really fit. Future long runs and hard workouts feel so much easier once you have already established a running base.
Running through different seasons of life can inspire a wide variety of emotions, especially when mileage is much lower than you are used to. However, it’s important to remember that base training is a key component of any training plan, and taking the time now to gain fitness will pay off when you’re ready to hit some goals.